THE TECHNIQUE OF ICON PAINTING by Dr. Guillem Ramos-Poquí
Since my book “The Technique of Icon Painting” was published twenty years ago, I have been exploring various technical possibilities. These were used in my recent icons of St Therese of Lisieux and the Calvary Altarpiece for the Church of St Joseph in Dublin.
In these works I have used some aspects of technique which may interest you.
THE PANEL AND THE GESSO
I use either MDF or 3/4″ plywood to which I glue, using PVA, or wood glue, a piece of about 2 mm thick, 100% cotton acid free conservation mounting board (from John Purcell Tel 0207 7375199, or from Falkiners, now called Shepherds, both in London) on the side to be painted. You glue it and leave it with weights overnight (making sure you have cut the mounting board a little bit bigger, in case it slides or moves). Then you simply cut the bits of mounting board which stick out using a Stanley blade, then sand down both edges and corners. Then you only need to put three or four coats of gesso on the side of the mounting board (there is no need to apply gelatine or rabbit skin glue size before hand). The last coat of gesso can be applied with a flat palette knife, to make any brush marks even. Whist you do these coatings, cover the sides and back of the panel with the gesso leftovers of your brush. Then sand down the gesso to a perfect finish. Using a 100% pure cotton layer of cotton mounting board glued over the panel is in perfect keeping with the tradition, icons always had a layer of natural fabric over the wood.